Friday, July 1, 2011

In Memoriam.....Marine Corps Corporal Kyle R. Schneider

From the Executive Chamber of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed that flags on state government buildings be flown at half-staff on Thursday, July 7 in honor of Marine Corps Corporal Kyle R. Schneider, a Phoenix, NY resident who died in Afghanistan on June 30.

Corporal Schneider was killed while conducting combat operations in Helmand province. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8thMarine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division of the II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

"On behalf of all New Yorkers, I want to express my condolences to the family, friends, and fellow Marines of Corporal Schneider," Governor Cuomo said.

"We will remember his dedication and his service to our country. This weekend, as we commemorate America's independence, we honor the soldiers like Corporal Schneider who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation."

From The G-Man would like to honor Marine Corps Corporal Kyle R. Schneider, his love of country and his service with the following video tribute. May he rest in peace.

Video uploaded to YouTube by moderatepopulist

Obama Nominates Olsen as NCTC Director

Will Play a Key Role on President's National Security Team

President Obama has nominated Matthew Olsen as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). Olsen will play a key role on the President’s national security team – bringing a strong voice and critical knowledge to integrate intelligence in order to protect Americans across the nation and around the world.

“I am pleased to nominate Matthew Olsen to be the next Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Matt has a distinguished record of service in our intelligence community and I’m confident he will continue to build on our strong counterterrorism efforts,” said President Obama.

“Matt will be a critical part of my national security team as we work tirelessly to thwart attacks against our nation and do everything in our power to protect the American people.”

If confirmed, Olsen will build on the important work of the dedicated intelligence professionals at NCTC who work every day to keep our nation safe and secure. He will continue NCTC’s mission to integrate intelligence relating to counterterrorism and to share that information with agencies and departments across the federal government.

Additionally, Olsen will continue NCTC’s critical effort to conduct strategic operational planning for counterterrorism activities across the federal government, ensuring that we bring the full weight of our diplomatic, financial, military, intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement authorities and capabilities to bear to thwart terrorist plans. NCTC is organizationally part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

He currently serves as the General Counsel for the National Security Agency (NSA) and principal legal advisor to the NSA Director.

Olsen previously served in the Department of Justice as an Associate Deputy Attorney General and was responsible for supervising and coordinating national security and criminal matters. From 2009 to 2010, he was Special Counselor to the Attorney General and Executive Director of the Guantanamo Review Task Force.

In this role, he managed the interagency effort to conduct a comprehensive review of intelligence information on the Guantanamo detainees. Olsen also served as the acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security during the 2009 presidential transition, supervising the daily operation of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

From 2006 to 2009, he was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the National Security Division and was responsible for the management of the Department’s intelligence operations and oversight. In this position, Olsen supervised the implementation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, helped craft landmark legislative changes to the surveillance laws, and advised government officials on intelligence activities and national security.

From 1994 to 2006, Olsen was a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. From 2005-2006, he was the chief of the office’s National Security Section, where he supervised the investigation and prosecution of terrorism, espionage, and export violation matters.

Olsen served as Special Counsel to the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2004 to 2005, where he focused on counterterrorism and intelligence investigations. As an Assistant United States Attorney, Olsen successfully prosecuted a violent drug trafficking organization in the longest criminal trial ever in the District of Columbia.

Olsen graduated from Harvard Law School (J.D.) and the University of Virginia (B.A.). He is an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University.

Photo source: Wikipedia
Author: Department of Justice
Permission: Public Domain

West Wing Week 07/1/11 or "Magic Mountains and Volcanoes"

This week, on West Wing Week, The President speaks about innovation in Pittsburgh, PA, visits an advanced manufacturing facility in Iowa, holds a news conference in the East Room and welcomes champion soccer and basketball teams to the White House. That's June 24th to June 30th or "Magic Mountains and Volcanoes".

World News: Newsy Now

This is Newsy Now and here are the headlines you need to know.

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By Erik Shute
Anchor: Jim Flink

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South China Sea: A Ticking Time Bomb

Map of the South China Sea

Senator Jim Webb, Washington Adviser Concerned About Growing Tension in the Region

Last week, Senator Jim Webb (D-Va) appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" and expressed great concern over tensions developing in the South China Sea region and the White House's lackluster response in addressing the situation.

Webb, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that deals with American policy toward east Asia, stated, "The United States should condemn China's use of force and push for multilateral negotiations to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea that have raised tensions in the region.

On June 13, Associated Press reporter Matthew Pennington wrote, "Vietnam fired live artillery rounds off its central coast in naval drills staged after accusing Chinese boats of disrupting oil and gas exploration. A similar dispute flared a week earlier between China and the Philippines."

Washington officials made it abundantly clear, back in 2009, that the U.S. has a vested interest -- in relation to national security -- where the altercations took place and urged against any outside interference or provocation.

During a Council on Foreign Relations seminar, Webb said, "Vietnam and other countries were watching whether we were going to back up those words with substantive action." However, Webb noted that the situation did not necessarily call for immediate U.S. military intervention.

In order to get a better perspective of the potential crisis, From The G-Man contacted Charles Armstrong, PhD., a professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and member of the steering committee for the National Committee on North Korea.

Armstrong, who served as a foreign affairs analyst for two previous articles on this site, is one of the leading observers and scholars in the country on matters concerning the Asian region, particularly in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

"I have not been following the Webb story, but I know there have been concerns in U.S. security policy circles for some time about China asserting its naval power in nearby seas, especially the South China Sea where there are numerous territorial disputes with other countries: Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, etc.," said Armstrong.

"Most recently, Vietnam and China have come close to military confrontation over their territorial dispute in this region. Webb, chairman of the East Asia and Pacific Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, proposed a resolution calling for multilateral discussions and a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The resolution was passed unanimously by the Senate," he continued.

"I find it fascinating that Webb, a Vietnam vet, seems to be implicitly taking Vietnam's side against China. But this is part of a larger trend these days: 36 years after the ignominious fall of Saigon, Vietnam has become our de facto ally against the rising power of China in Asia. Up to now, China's ability to project naval power is still quite limited. The Pacific remains dominated by American power now, more or less, as it has for the past 60 years. Nevertheless, China's naval power and ambition are growing, and this worries those concerned with maintaining US military dominance in the region."

Map image created and copyrighted (2006) by Yeu Ninje. Released under the GNU FDL.
Based on original in "South China Sea", National Geographic, December 1998.

BREAKING NEWS: The following has been reported, as of July 2, 2011 (12am) by Pia Lee Brago of the Philippine Star.

China invites DFA chief to visit Beijing

MANILA, Philippines - Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario is expected to bring up the territorial dispute in the waters of Southeast Asia in his meeting with his counterpart in Beijing next week.

“I’ve been invited to go to Beijing and we’re looking for peaceful means to settle the challenges facing us,” Del Rosario said when asked if the Spratlys issue would be on the agenda. “I think probably maritime security is a subject we’ll be discussing.”

But Del Rosario said the schedule of his visit has not yet been finalized. The secretary’s visit was tentatively scheduled on July 7-9.

“We’re still trying to finalize that (schedule). We’re still trying to discuss to China as far as my participation is concerned. It hasn’t been finalized yet. It’s a bilateral visit,” Del Rosario said during a forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) at the Mandarin Hotel in Makati City last Thursday.

The invitation of China’s foreign minister Yang Jiechi to Del Rosario came amid rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea triggered by reported intrusions of Chinese vessels and aircraft into Philippine territorial waters.

According to Del Rosario, more than 100 agreements signed between the Philippines and China on trade, investments, tourism, education and security would definitely be discussed during the visit.

He also said President Aquino’s visit to China may take place next month or in September this year. “But the date is not yet final,” he said.

Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said freedom of navigation in the waters of Southeast Asia has never been compromised.

"China safeguards its sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, which does not affect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea enjoyed by countries according to international law,” Hong said.

“In fact, freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is out of question,” he said.

Singapore has called on China to clarify the extent of its claims in the West Philippine Sea with more “precision” saying its ambiguity has only heightened tensions. The island state said that parties should use as basis for resolving their dispute the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Sure of help

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said a resolution by the United States Senate criticizing China’s intrusions into Philippine waters may be considered an assurance of US support.

“This is good for us because we have an assurance at least somebody will help us in an event of a conflict (breaking out) in the area,” Gazmin said.

The US Senate resolution on Monday, Gazmin said, also debunked China’s denials that it had ever made incursions in Philippine waters.

“As the US senate viewed it, there was use of unnecessary force contrary to claims by China. The truth of the matter is that violations were noted during this period and we find the increased intrusions very alarming,” Gazmin said.

He said only a superpower can deal with another superpower in defusing tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines and the US are bound by a 60-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) to come to the defense of each other against foreign aggressors.

On China’s continued disregard of the diplomatic protests filed by the DFA, Gazmin said China’s attitude would have bearing on its standing in the international community.

“We are not offended. What will happen here is that China will lose face before the international community,” Gazmin said.

He stressed that China’s contention that the entire West Philippine Sea is under its jurisdiction is indefensible.

He also said that there is no need to reinforce the Philippine garrison in the Kalayaan Island group.

“We don’t need more troops there. What is more important now is that the conflict is contained in the region,” he said.

With Jaime Laude

Thursday, June 30, 2011

FDA Panel Doesn't Back Popular Cancer Drug

A Federal Drug Administration panel has cleared the way for the government to remove its endorsement of the drug Avastin.

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By Jennifer Meckles

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Man Flies Across US With Bogus Boarding Pass

A Nigerian man managed to fly from New York to LAX with an expired boarding pass in someone else's name and no matching ID-- how?

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By Megan Noe

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World News: UK Public Sector Strikes

Unions estimate around 750,000 workers went on strike over proposed changes to pension schemes.

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By Steven Hsieh

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News Corp. Dumps MySpace for Huge Loss

The social networking site once valued near one billion dollars has been sold once again-- and this time for only $35 million.

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By Megan Noe

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White House Briefs

Armed Services Farewell Tribute for Secretary Gates

President Obama praises Secretary Robert Gates as he steps down as Secretary of Defense in a farewell tribute at the Pentagon.

Cuomo to Close Seven State Prisons

Move Will Provide $184 Million in Savings to State Taxpayers Over Next Two Years

Governor Andrew Cuomo will close seven New York state prisons, fulfilling his pledge to consolidate the state's correctional facilities based on a declining inmate population and providing significant savings to New York state taxpayers.

Communities affected by the closures will be able to request economic development assistance from the state, which includes money from a $50 million fund as well as additional tax credits available to help end the reliance on prisons as a major source of employment and economic sustainability.

The state's closure plan includes four male minimum security facilities: Buffalo Work Release (Erie County), Camp Georgetown (Madison County), Summit Shock (Schoharie County) and Fulton Work Release (Bronx County); and three male medium security facilities: Arthur Kill (Richmond County), Mid-Orange (Orange County) and Oneida (Oneida County).

Approximately 3,800 unneeded and unused beds will be eliminated, saving taxpayers $72 million in 2011-12 and $112 million in 2012-13. The offenders in these facilities will be moved to other prisons that have available space with no interruption. No maximum security facilities will close under this plan.

"The state's prison system has been too inefficient and too costly with far more capacity than what is needed to secure the state's inmate population and ensure the public's safety," Governor Cuomo said.

"This plan is the result of very careful and detailed analysis and deliberation. It succeeds in targeting facilities for closure without compromising public safety and will save taxpayers $184 million. We will work closely to ensure impacted areas are given substantial state aid to help them create jobs and transform their local economies. New York will continue to keep the highest standard of public safety and maintain one of the safest correctional systems in the country."

"The plan for prison closures in New York state reflects the state's changing and declining inmate population, while recognizing the benefit of programs that provide alternatives to incarceration and supervised re-entry into society," DOCCS Commissioner Brian Fischer said.

"By closing facilities, removing excess capacity and focusing on the core programs that will continue to rehabilitate offenders, DOCCS will provide the highest level of security to protect the public with greater efficiency and cost effectiveness."

Since 1999, New York's prison population has declined by 22 percent, from a high of 71,600 offenders incarcerated 12 years ago to approximately 56,000 today. The continuing downward trend of the state's prison population is largely attributed to the simultaneous drop in crime across the state. Over the past ten years, the overall rate of crime in New York has declined by 25 percent and the number of major crimes (e.g., homicide; assault) has declined by 23 percent.

From 2001 to 2010, the number of inmates housed at maximum security prisons declined by 2 percent (from 25,331 in 2001, to 24,822 in 2010), the number of inmates at medium security prisons decreased by 19.5 percent (from 35,763 in 2001, to 28,795 in 2010) and the number at minimum security facilities dropped by 57.2 percent (from 6,301 in 2001, to 2,698 in 2010).

Since the late 1980s, the State Legislature enacted several laws that offer mostly non-violent offenders early release as an incentive for good behavior and program achievements, including the Shock Incarceration, Work Release, Comprehensive Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment (CASAT), Willard Drug Treatment Campus, Merit Time and Limited Credit Time Allowance programs.

The 1973 Rockefeller Drug Laws have been reformed three times to allow many drug offenders to apply to have their sentences reduced, to allow some to earn extra time off their fixed minimum period of indeterminate sentences for good behavior and achievement of milestones involving treatment, educational, training and work programs, and, last year, to divert more new offenders into alternatives to incarceration.

These changes have already led to the early release of many offenders, virtually all of them non-violent drug offenders, on average eight months earlier than had the laws remain unchanged, resulting in the need for fewer prison beds.

Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo achieved the merger of the former Department of Correctional Services and Division of Parole into the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). It is estimated that newly merged state agency will save state taxpayers $17 million in the current 2011-12 fiscal year.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Newsy Now

Obama wants to raise taxes; Will Kabul raid kill peace? NATO strikes Zlitan; IMF asks for increased debt; Bank of America settles dispute.

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By Jonathan Ketz

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Wildfire Threatens Nuclear Laboratory in New Mexico

A vicious wildfire threatens the United States' premier nuclear-weapons laboratory.

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By Mychaela Bruner

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World News: Newsy Now

France gives Libyan rebels weapons; Ohio court uphold's Obama health care; Russia cuts off Belarus' power; Sony 'knew' about the hack; Ai Wei Wei fin

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By Samuel Joseph

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LGBT Pride Month

President Obama makes remarks at an event to observe LGBT Pride Month at the White House.